- Patriarchal Dissolution in Finnegans WakeReading Joyce’s “porterpeace”
In 1898, Father James Cullen, S.J., formed the Pioneer Total Abstinence League of the Sacred Heart in Dublin. It was endorsed and supported through indulgences by Pius X in 1905.1 During the same period, the Intoxicating Liquors Act was passed in Ireland in July 1902. It reduced the number of pubs in the country, and introduced a 10:30 p.m. closing time. A bill banning Sunday opening was passed on November 29, 1906. “Drink,” as alcohol is known in the Emerald Isle, was under sustained attack from political and religious quarters. The attempt to restrict drinking was undertaken in tandem with a greater degree of church influence on Irish political administration in general. Thomas Hofheinz proposes to capture the spirit of the times when he writes that early-twentieth-century Irish society
institutionalised the patriarchal social philosophy of Catholic Ireland through a long series of prescriptive laws culminating in De Valera’s constitution of 1937. These laws enforced the Catholic Church’s control of sexuality and generation in marriage by proscribing divorce and contraception, and placed obstacles in the way of working women at a time when economic pressures drove countless men into unemployment. The Free State thereby enshrined as law the predicament that appears again and again throughout Joyce’s fiction: Irish homes in which fathers crippled with alcoholism, impotence, and rage beat, neglect or drive their wives into states of enervation and despair and throw their children to the wolves.2
Such a view of the effects of drinking certainly serves to reinforce the need for divine intervention, and Dubliners resonates with this type of [End Page 110] frustrated local drinker in many of its stories. Many characters are deprived of the opportunity of self-fulfillment as a result of mundane work environments, or unemployment, and are filled with a corresponding self-loathing generated by their overreliance on what Teehan calls “the elixir of choice to dispel the gloom and make painful situations tolerable.”3 For example, Hofheinz’s reading of patriarchal Irish culture is painfully mirrored in the conclusion of Joyce’s “Counterparts,” where Farrington’s young son offers to say a Hail Mary for his drunken father in the hope of forestalling a beating. Likewise, when Little Chandler’s strangled exhortation for his child to “stop” crying cuts through the evening air (D 84), the joys engendered by the pubs of Dublin pale against the specter of a frustrated paternalism turned sullen and dejected. In just such a fashion, Joyce’s early work is openly critical of excessive alcohol consumption, and yet in his writing the pub is also a very positive social space: one that privileges generosity and verbal wit and prioritizes a well-told story over the authenticity of its contents. Indeed, fact and fiction often overlap in the world of the Irish pub. For example, in “Counter-parts,” Farrington begins his pub crawl in O’Neill’s of Suffolk Street from where it is a five minute walk to The Norseman on Essex Street. The Norseman was briefly renamed Farrington’s in honor of Joyce’s disreputable drinker, before recently returning to its Norse nomenclature, but not before demonstrating the difficulty of separating Joyce’s writing, and fiction in general, from the reality of lived Irish experience. And O’Neill’s is only one of many among the plethora of public houses that populate Joyce’s fiction. In this regard, Thomas Keegan has put together a comprehensive list of the pubs visited in Dubliners alone, and it can reasonably be assumed that Joyce was as familiar with their interiors as with their location. The short story collection references Egan’s, also known as The Oval, to be found on Abbey Street; Burke’s of Baggot Street; The Bridge Inn in Chapelizod, thought of as a model for the fictional pub owned by one Humphrey Clinker Earwicker; Kavanagh’s of Parliament Street; McAuley’s of Dorset Street; Davy Byrne’s of Duke Street; The Scotch House (Burgh Quay); and Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street. Bookending the theme of paternal abuse, Gallagher and Chandler drink in Corless’s, also...